There is nothing quite like being on an island, disconnected from the mundane burdens of the mainland, as well as some of the safety nets of modern society. My sense of time changes, as my mind wanders to centuries of people who have been here before – connecting me to the past, but also heightening awareness of my human fragility.

Of course, this is just the perspective of a person who grew up landlocked, for whom an island visit is something of an occasion (and not the site of a lobsterman’s labor or a commodity for wealthy rusticators).

Like time on an island, a good beer also takes me to a different place, arresting time, recalibrating the senses, drawing me into a more intimate relationship with the present. Ever since I moved here about a decade ago, the elegant hoppy ales of Maine Beer Company have been vehicles for momentary escape – not from life, but from its fussy trappings – to something more essential.

A bottle of Maine Beer Company’s Little Whaleboat IPA, available at its Freeport tasting room. Photo courtesy of Maine Beer Company

The brewery’s newest addition to its tight rotation is Little Whaleboat IPA, named for Little Whaleboat Island in Casco Bay. The beer’s clean house yeast and light body – fashioned from two-row malt, Maine Malt House Pilsner, Blue Ox Malthouse Wheat and Blue Ox Malthouse Munich – provide a platform for the hops to express themselves. Citra, Mosaic, Columbus and Talus hops evoke grapefruit, rose and chamomile, with some piney bitterness in the finish. It’s 6.5% ABV, but drinks lighter than that. This is no tropical piña colada double milkshake IPA reminiscent of Spring Break excess; it is a beer befitting the stately islands of coastal Maine.

Among those are the picturesque Little Whaleboat Islands – a 22-acre cluster of three small islands (Little Whaleboat, Nate and Tuck) and ledges. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) is a land conservation organization with a great deal of experience in conserving islands like these. Created in 1970, it has conserved over 156,000 acres across the state, including 148 public preserves and 325 coastal islands. MCHT owns and manages a chain of islands in the area: Goslings, Whaleboat, Clapboard Island East and Lanes.

The Little Whaleboats are home to seals, who use their ledges as haul-outs, as well as “all manner of birds that wade and feed along the shoreline,” according to Keith Fletcher, MCHT project manager. There is often an American bald eagle nest there, and in the past, the islands off Harpswell have been home to a great blue heron rookery. But it’s also in a part of Maine where new development has impacted plant and animal habitats, while also reducing public access to shorelines.

Little Whaleboat’s owners contacted MCHT in hopes of forging an agreement to conserve the islands permanently and maintain public access to its beaches as they currently allow. MCHT needs to raise $260,000 before Dec. 31 to meet the $1.3 million price of purchasing the islands and maintaining them as public preserves. The price includes land acquisition costs, operational support and stewardship.

But MCHT also has a partner in Maine Beer Company, which pledged $50,000 to the Little Whaleboat Islands Project in August. Since Daniel and David Kleban founded Maine Beer Company in 2009, the brewery has donated 1 percent of its gross annual sales to environmental nonprofits, as part of the 1% for the Planet network. Maine Beer Company has worked with MCHT on a number of projects in the past and “recognized what a unique opportunity this was to help them purchase these islands,” according to Anne Marisic, the brewery’s head of marketing and communications. “Purchasing the islands is only the first step … there is ongoing stewardship and conservation that needs to happen, so this effort does not stop when the purchase money has been raised.”

Little Whaleboat IPA will play a role in that sustainability, drawing attention to the valuable work of MCHT, while also continuing to feed the portion of the brewery’s revenues that are sent to their environmentalist partner organizations. It is available in bottles and on draft exclusively from the Freeport tasting room, and there are plans for regional and national distribution next year. People can also contribute more directly to the Little Whaleboat Island campaign at mcht.org.

Like any good beer, Little Whaleboat IPA is an island in a glass. But unlike any other good beer, this one comes with an actual island.

Ben Lisle is an assistant professor of American Studies at Colby College. He lives among the breweries in Portland’s East Bayside, where he writes about cultural history, urban geography, and craft beer culture. Reach him on Twitter at @bdlisle.


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